Completing your own woodworking projects and carpentry work can be rewarding. Your time and effort went into building or fixing something useful, and that feels good. While having skills like operating a compact circular saw will help when working on these projects, knowing how to select the right type of wood will be just as important.
Even with some experience, finding the right wood for woodwork can be difficult. Just like when choosing the right saw, there are many different types of lumber you can use. Beyond the species, you also have different cuts and different grades. In this post, we are going to go over some of the basics of selecting the best wood for carpentry and woodworking projects. These include choosing between hardwood or softwood, plywood, pressure treated wood, different cuts, and finding the right grade.
Decide Between Hardwood or Softwood for Your Next Woodworking Project
In a broad sense, there are two kinds of wood: hardwood and softwood. For the most part, the names do reflect the physical qualities of the wood – hardwoods are hard and softwoods are soft. Softwoods come from conifers such as spruce, pine, and cedar. Hardwood typically comes from deciduous trees like oak, maple, and hickory.
Softwoods tend to be less expensive because the trees they come from mature faster. They are a popular type of wood for jobs like framing and for building decks. Hardwoods tend to cost more, and their durability makes them popular for carpentry projects like building fine furniture and cabinetry.
Grades are Important for Finding the Right Type of Wood
When searching for the right woodworking wood, you will find that there are different grades that represent the qualities of the piece of wood. Hardwood grades come from the National Hardwood Lumber Association and softwood grades come from the American Softwood Lumber Standard.
With softwoods, you have two broad categories: construction lumber and appearance lumber. Appearance lumber is rated based on its looks and construction lumber is rated on strength. Construction lumber would be used for things like framing a house and appearance lumber is used for woodworking projects like making softwood furniture.
Hardwood grading is a little more straightforward. With hardwoods, the grade is based on the appearance and the number of defects in the wood. The top grade for hardwoods is firsts and seconds (FAS). After that, you have select, No. 1 common, No. 2 common, and No. 3 common.
If you are making a fine finished product, you would go with a higher grade. The lower grades are cheaper, but many of the imperfections are a part of the wood. Even with a tool like a random orbital sander, you would not be able to improve the quality of the woodworking wood.
Different Cuts Impact the Type of Wood You Need for Woodworking
Another important factor is the type of cut. When it comes to types of wood for woodworking, you have plain-sawn lumber, rift-sawn lumber, and quarter-sawn lumber.
Plain-sawn is the least expensive because it creates less waste when cutting the lumber. With quarter-sawn lumber, you get fewer boards, but it is stronger than plain sawn lumber. Rift-sawn lumber has more waste, but it creates the strongest boards and maintains the same grain pattern on each board. They woodworking project you’re planning on doing will influence the type of wood cut you choose.
Plywood is One of the Best Woods for Carpentry
Plywood is a strong, versatile building material, and it can be used for a wide range of carpentry projects. It is a common paneling material and it is also used to make the subfloor in many homes. Just like hardwoods and softwoods, plywood also has different classifications and grades.
For both indoor and outdoor carpentry projects, you have plywood grades for exterior, exposure 1, exposure 2, and interior. After that, you have a grading system that runs from A to D, with A offering the best appearance. In some cases, you may also see plywood graded as A-C. This means that one side has an A grade and the other side has a C grade.
Pressure Treated Lumber is an Ideal Wood for Carpentry Outdoor Projects
Pressure treated wood is softwood that has been treated with preservatives to resist mold, rot, and insects. The wood is placed in pressurized tanks where the chemical preservatives are forced into the fibers.
Thanks to the preservation process, pressure treated lumber is good for outdoor projects. That said, there are different types of pressure treated wood, so you need to make sure to select the right type of wood for the application.
Selecting the right type of wood can make a significant difference in your next carpentry or woodworking project. As you learn about the various types of lumber, grades, and qualities of different species, there is a lot to consider. If you plant to do a lot of woodworking, it is worth your time to learn how to select the right wood for woodwork and DIY carpentry projects.
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